The Montreal Canadiens massive turnover in management and coaching continued Friday with the announcement that Gerard Gallant and Clement Jodoin will serve as assistants to new head coach Michel Therrien.
And Therrien's not finished, as he intends to add a third assistant who would work with the team's defensemen behind the bench, while Jodoin will serve as an eye in the sky in the press box. Therrien also confirmed that goaltending coach Pierre Groulx will be retained, a decision he made after speaking with goaltender Carey Price.
Therrien had Jodoin as an assistant during his first stint as head coach of the Canadiens from 2000 to 2002, but he had no prior relationship with Gallant other than playing and coaching against him in the junior ranks and the American Hockey League.
Regardless, Therrien knew he wanted to get Gallant on his bench as soon as he got the job.
"When I was hired I thought of him right away, even though I really didn't know him. I think he's a perfect fit, I like the career path he's taken," Therrien said of Gallant. "I've heard nothing but good things about him. When you don't know someone, you try to find out as much as possible about him. I couldn't find a single person who had one negative thing to say about him. And when we met, we had instant chemistry."
Gallant leaves the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Saint John Sea Dogs after three highly successful seasons. He's guided the team to Memorial Cup appearances the last two seasons, including winning the championship in 2011. The 48-year-old native of Summerside, P.E.I., also won the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League Coach of the Year awards in 2011.
He compiled a remarkable 161-34-9 record in three seasons with Saint John. Under Gallant, the Sea Dogs became the first team in QMJHL history to record three consecutive 100-point seasons and had the best regular-season record in all three of his seasons.
Gallant says he had been speaking with two other NHL clubs for assistant coaching positions, but was still in the interview phase with those clubs when Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin offered him a contract on Tuesday.
"I work very well with young players and I'm an experienced guy," Gallant said. "I'll bring a strong work ethic and hopefully I'll bring a lot of fun in Montreal."
Gallant spent two seasons playing with Bergevin in Tampa Bay, and the two lived in the same residential complex so they would often carpool to the arena together.
"We had a lot of laughs, and Marc was at the center of that," Gallant said. "He's a great guy."
Prior to joining the Sea Dogs, Gallant served as an NHL assistant coach with the New York Islanders in 2007-08 under Ted Nolan in and 2008-09 under Scott Gordon. He also spent seven years on the coaching staff of the Columbus Blue Jackets, including just over two years as head coach, from June 2004 to Nov. 13, 2006.
Like the Blue Jackets from that era, Gallant joins a Canadiens team that finished 28th overall and last in the Eastern Conference. But he doesn't see the similarities between the two teams because he feels the Canadiens were more snakebitten last season than anything else.
"It was great to get that experience in Columbus, but no one wants to finish in last," Gallant said. "I think the trouble Montreal had was having a lot of injuries. But things are so close in the NHL right now, so hopefully we can finish in the top of the League instead of the bottom half."
Gallant played in 615 NHL games with the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring 211 goals and 480 points. In 58 playoff games, he had 18 goals and 21 assists.
Jodoin returns to Montreal after a season of coaching the Canadiens AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs. On Tuesday, he received a phone call from Bergevin saying that his services would no longer be needed in Hamilton -- Sylvain Lefebvre was hired as head coach of the Bulldogs a day later -- but that he would be a welcome addition in Montreal.
"Clement has so much to offer," Therrien said. "His experience in hockey is very impressive."
Jodoin, 60, has coached at just about every level imaginable, starting in Canadian university hockey before moving on to a career that included twice winning coach of the year honors in the QMJHL and winning three gold medals as an assistant coach of the Canadian national junior team from 2006-08. He's served as an AHL head coach in Quebec City and Hamilton, and was an assistant in Montreal and Quebec City as well.
I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.
— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic